I got an email from Mitch Joel (watch your toes…I am name dropping to get a better google position) this morning with a note about the new partnership between Virgin Comic and Myspace and their plan to do some fan generated content by opening up the creative process of comic book creation……sort of like an open code software program.
On face value I think this is an interesting idea but I am not sure if this will get the reaction and participation that they must be expecting. The reason I say this is that I experimented with a “choose your adventure” format similar to this a few years ago with a book I was working on (I was way ahead of my time and still am) and I found that in the beginning the interest was huge but as the voting started, people whose ideas were not the winning votes lost all emotional connection (and interest) in the project and by the end the only people still interested in it was me (since I was paying for the thing) and the 50 or 60 people whose opinions were perceived to matter.
That being said, with Virgin and Myspace the pool of participants is much larger then I had to play with so things could be very different but still the end result will only matter if people are emotionally invested in this.
I am all for UGC or CGC but the skeptic in me wonders if the goal is to get free content for something that has the possibility of generating income without giving writing or creative credit to the people participating….and speaking of creative credit…..if they would open this up and say “everyone participating in this project will get a mention in the book” The interest level and participation would be through the roof since as I mention in the next paragraph, 80% of people (I made that number up) who read comics are writers or artists interested in working in the industry and would love a BIG break since a credit on a major book would go along way to starting a career.
The BIG BREAK “thing” is one thing Marketers don’t always take into consideration when dealing with the comics community. Comics are like no other industry because fans have unprecedented access to the biggest names in the business since almost everyone has very active message boards and will actually respond to email. (Just try to email a movie star and see what happens) and just about every fan (62% another number I made up) thinks he can do the job better then the people cranking out books month after month. Since fans have contact with the pros they can sometimes forget just how hard and talented you have to be to make comics for a living and this blurring of the line can sometimes give them a complete sense of entitlement and while I say this with absolute respect (because I was one of them and pretty much still am)….but comic folks are a jaded bunch and see through a lot of corporate attempts to win them over……and when they smell something funny you can pretty much bet it will be beaten to death on a message board somewhere making the attempt to win them over pretty much over.
I don’t wish this to fail and I want the comics industry to thrive so I will watch this with great interest.